Pre-season | Week 1: Back on track


Start the season with fun and fitness. Combine skills, conditioning and games to help your players fuel their desire to get fitter and ready for the new season.

It’s the first training session back after a long break and your players will be apprehensive about their fitness, so you, the coach, need to do two things:

1. Start the conditioning process at a variety of intensities because there will be a large range of fitness levels.

2. Make them want to come back for the next session (so don’t beast them too hard).

So this session will be a balance of games, skills and good old-fashioned lung work. If you make it too physical at this stage, the players will not be able to cope.

Approach for this session

The session breaks up into three distinct areas.

You start with the warm-up game, which is important because it gets the players’ heart rates up, makes them smile and has them remember the competitive nature of rugby.

Then the skills games work on conditioning while building a base of skills. The players will know they are working hard, but you can still keep hammering home the basics.

The last part will be the toughest – another game, but over a long pitch. The players will be shattered, but keep them going with encouragement and the lure of competition.

Session time plan

Session time 75 mins (including breaks for feedback and water)
15 mins Warm-up games
10 mins Skills game 1 for one group, skills game 2 for the other
10 mins Skills games swapped
30 mins The long game (three 10-minute games)



As the players arrive, organise them into games of touch rugby in small areas. Only play up to a maximum of 6v6 before splitting the groups again into two groups of 4v4.

Next, move into games that highlight particular skills, like passing, or support play, or communication, or even body positions over the ball. Isolate these skills by modifying the rules of the game.

Skills game 1 – Five pass rugby

Split into 4v4 in 10m x 10m box. The team with the ball has to complete five consecutive passes without being intercepted or running out of the area. The ball carrier cannot pass to the person who just passed to him.

You can adjust the rules to make the game more challenging by allowing running with the ball, specifying the distance the defender can be from the ball, limiting the types of pass.

Skills game 2 – Corner ball

Set up a 15m x 15m box. Start with two attackers inside the box with a ball between them. The rest of the players (up to a maximum of 10) have to avoid being touched by the ball while it is still in the possession of the ball carrier. The best way for the attackers to do this is to back an opponent into a corner.

If a player is touched OR he runs out of the area, this player joins the attackers. The attackers cannot run with the ball, so have to use good passing and communication.

Finish the session with three 10-minute games of The long game :

The long game

  • Play across the width of the pitch with a maximum of 8v8 players.
  • Play touch rugby, where the ball carrier has three seconds to pass the ball or it is a turnover.
  • To score a try, all of the attacking team must be within 15m of the try line.

  • When a try is scored, the attacking team run back to their try line. The other team have a countdown of 10 seconds before they can restart.
  • You can adjust the touch rules to suit, but the key is that the players will have to do a lot of running and recovering.


Set out your stall

In the first session of the new year, you are not just revitalising the players, you are renewing your authority as a coach. You can remind them of your methods and approach:

Clarity – you make it clear what the session is about and what effect the various elements will have.

Honesty – you don’t hide from telling them what they need to do. If it is going to be hard work, then say so.

Positivity – you can be honest, but you must also be positive. Encourage your players by telling them what the benefits will be, not the downsides.

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